Posts Tagged ‘ballistic missiles’

North Korea’s Trump-Era Strategy: Keep Making A-Bombs, but Quietly

September 17, 2018

 For seven years, Kim Jong-un has pursued an in-your-face strategy for building his nuclear arsenal: detonating blasts underground and firing missiles into the sky, all to send the message that his country’s nuclear buildup is irreversible.

Now he appears to be changing his approach, current and former American intelligence officials say, tailoring it to his reading of the man he met for a few hours three months ago in Singapore: President Trump.

North Korea is making nuclear fuel and building weapons as actively as ever, the publicly available evidence suggests. But he now appears to be borrowing a page from Israel, Pakistan and India: He is keeping quiet about it, conducting no public nuclear demonstrations and creating no crises, allowing Mr. Trump to portray a denuclearization effort as on track.

Mr. Kim’s new forbearance has helped keep a stream of warm words coming from Mr. Trump. A week ago, the president praised Mr. Kim, with whom he says he has forged a special relationship, after the North Korean leader refrained from parading missiles down the streets of Pyongyang during a military celebration.

By David E. Sanger
The New York Times

President Trump and Kim Jong-un at their summit meeting in June. They have exchanged warm words ever since. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea will visit the North Korean leader in Pyongyang for their third meeting, and over three days the two men are expected to discuss a “peace declaration” that the North has said must precede any further discussion of disarmament.

Looming over the meeting is the post-Singapore stalemate on progress despite Mr. Trump’s new tone of accommodation, including his openness to a second meeting with Mr. Kim. After declaring a year ago that Mr. Kim had to disarm quickly or face “fire and fury,” Mr. Trump now says there is plenty of time.

But even some of the president’s top national security officials privately concede that Mr. Trump’s declaration in June that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea was a huge error, because it was taken as a signal by China and Russia that the crisis was over and that they could resume trading with the country.

Current and former intelligence officials say new assessments suggest that Mr. Kim has carefully read Mr. Trump and concluded that as long as the optics are good, and the exchanges between the two leaders are warm, he can hold off demands for progress toward disarmament. If Mr. Kim does not conduct tests, Mr. Trump is unlikely to call out evidence of a continued nuclear buildup.

“I’m shocked at how superficial things have been,” said Jung H. Pak, the C.I.A.’s mission leader for North Korea until she left last year for the Brookings Institution. “I think the North Koreans smell dysfunction and they see dysfunction in the president’s tweets and his compliments and his willingness to meet again.”


Even one of Mr. Trump’s frequent defenders, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, indicated on Sunday he was worried that the president might have been manipulated.

“Are they playing us? I don’t know,” Mr. Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If they’re playing Trump, we’re going to be in a world of hurt, because he’s going to have no options left. This is the last, best chance for peace right here.”

The White House argues that significant progress has been made. Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has cited the fact that Mr. Kim’s last missile and nuclear tests were 10 months ago, and insisted that is a sign of Mr. Kim’s willingness to deal.

It certainly is a constraint on his program: As long as the North conducts no tests, it cannot demonstrate that it has designed a warhead that can survive the huge stresses it would undergo in flight. That leaves ambiguity about whether it can actually strike American cities.

Still, nuclear production continues unabated, satellite photographs and other evidence suggest. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has not persuaded the North Koreans to turn over an inventory of their major nuclear facilities and materials, much less declare how many weapons they possess. While Mr. Kim has blown up entrances to a nuclear test site and appeared to start dismantling a test stand for missile engines, he has not allowed in any inspectors to determine whether the actions were simply for show.

Mr. Kim has said a peace “declaration” that formally ends the Korean War must be a first step, and Mr. Moon has privately urged the United States to provide that assurance. The North Korean leader believes that Mr. Trump committed to such a declaration on the way to a more formal peace treaty. But both Mr. Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, have said progress toward denuclearization must come first.

Mr. Kim’s strategy now appears to be simple: Mimic Pakistan, which conducted a major nuclear test in 1998 and deflected demands for years that it give up its weapons. Pakistan has largely succeeded. It has a substantial arsenal, and when Mr. Pompeo visited Islamabad recently, there was little public discussion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

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US Navy vows to protect Red Sea and Arabian Gulf amid Iran threats

September 10, 2018

The US Navy has vowed to ensure the free flow of shipping in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea after Iranian threats to disrupt the waterways.

Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the US 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said Iran’s activities across the region are “promoting instability” that is “affecting the region significantly” through its backing of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Bloomberg reported.

“The US and our partners stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” he said on Sunday.

Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the US 5th Fleet, said the US Navy would ensure free navigation for shipping in the region’s waterways. (AFP)

The commander made the comments as he announced a series of exercises this month with regional and global allies as part of the US 5th Fleet Theater Counter Mine and Maritime Security Exercise. One of the exercises will take place in Djibouti, near the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait which marks the entrance to the Red Sea.  The waters in the Strait have been threatened by the Houthi militia in Yemen, which controls part of the Red Sea coast. The Iran-backed group have carried out several attacks targeting international shipping.

Iran has also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Arabian Gulf if it is stopped from exporting its own oil.

The US is set to impose a second wave of sanctions in November that will target the Iranian energy sector, including the sale of crude to international customers.

The sanctions are being reimposed after  Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal between Iran and international powers earlier this year.

The deal sought to curb Iran’s atomic program in exchange for an easing of the sanctions that had crippled the country’s economy.

Trump criticized the deal for doing little to stop Iran’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program.

Arab news

North Korea holds parade without ballistic missiles — “Concealed carry”

September 9, 2018

North Korea did not display any intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at a military parade to mark its 70th anniversary, reports say.

It is also unclear whether leader Kim Jong-un made a speech at the event.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, raises hands with Chinese envoy Li Zhanshu

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The parade is being scrutinised for clues about North Korea’s weapons arsenal and professed commitment to denuclearisation.

Some analysts had predicted that Mr Kim would tone down the display after his summit with US President Donald Trump.

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Soldiers salute as they ride tanks during a military parade and mass rally in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, September 9, 2018

A large display of ICBMs – which can reach the US mainland, potentially carrying a nuclear warhead – would have been seen as provocative.

No footage of the parade has been released but news agency AFP, which had a reporter at the scene, and NK News, which had pictures from North Korean state TV, said no ICBMs had been seen.

In June Mr Kim and Mr Trump signed a vague agreement to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula but it did not include a timeline, details or mechanisms to verify the process.

High level talks and visits have continued but the most recent scheduled trip by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was called off last minute and both sides have blamed each other for the stalling negotiations while insisting they’re committed to the progress.

The BBC’s Seoul Correspondent Laura Bicker said any show of ICBMs could have put future discussions and any deal to declare an end to the Korean war at risk.

North Korean military parade, 9 September 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThousands of troops marched in the parade
parade participants wave flowers as they pass Mr KimImage copyrightAFP
Image captionSome parade participants waved flowers as they passed Mr Kim

North Korea was also due to hold its first mass games in five years. The Arirang Mass Games are an elaborate propaganda spectacle with enormous co-ordinated displays.

This year’s games, which tell a symbolic story of North Korea’s history, are titled The Glorious Country.

Analysis of satellite images from the past two weeks suggest this year’s games, which will continue throughout September, are going to be very big.

North Koreans put on gymnastics and arts performances during the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang 22 July 2013, as part of celebrations ahead of the 60th anniversary marking the end of the 1950-53 Korean WarImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe 2013 games involved tens of thousands of performers

Past games have featured gigantic stadiums filled with performers, synchronised gymnasts and co-ordinated dance displays.

The colourful displays are likely to be striking but the UN has in the past said that children are forced to take part, or to help in the build-up.

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23 injured after Saudi Arabian forces intercept Houthi missile fired toward Najran

September 6, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces on Wednesday intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Houthi militias, which injured 23 people according to an Arab coalition statement.

The missile, the latest in a series of similar attacks, was heading toward Najran, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted a missile fired by Houthi militia on Wednesday toward Najran. (Screenshot)

Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said that 23 people were injured by “falling scattered fragments” as a result of the incident but none of the injuries were serious.

Al-Maliki added that the launching of missiles by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia proves the Iranian regime’s continued involvement in supporting the terrorist group in clear and explicit defiance of UN resolution 2216 and resolution 2231.

He noted the Houthi attacks are aimed at threatening the Kingdom’s security, as well as regional and international security and the firing of ballistic missiles at populated towns and villages is in contradiction of international humanitarian law.

The total number of ballistic missiles launched by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia toward Saudi Arabia so far has reached 187 rockets.

Arab News

Israel does not rule out striking Iranian targets in Iraq

September 3, 2018

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday signalled his country could strike Iranian targets in Iraq if they threatened Israel, saying it would hit wherever necessary.

“We will face any Iranian threat, no matter where it comes from,” Lieberman said in response to a question about reports that Iran had provided ballistic missiles to allied Shiite militias in Iraq in recent months.

“Our freedom of action is total,” he told a conference organised by an Israeli media company.

Israel has pledged to stop Iran, its main enemy, from entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria, where Tehran is backing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s civil war.

© AFP/File | Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks to the press in the Golan Heights on July 10, 2018

A series of recent strikes in Syria that have killed Iranians has been attributed to Israel.

Israel also acknowledges carrying out dozens of strikes in Syria against what it says were advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group.

Asked about the possibility of Israel hitting Iranian military positions in “Iraq or Tehran,” Lieberman said: “We do not limit ourselves to Syrian territory alone. It must be clear.”

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with US special representative for Syria engagement Netanyahu on the war-ravaged country and Iran.


Pompeo ‘deeply concerned’ by report that Iran gave missiles to proxies in Iraq

September 3, 2018

US secretary of state says move would be a ‘gross violation’ of Iraqi sovereignty

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 12:43pm

The US is deeply concerned over reports of Iran transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq that shows a “gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty” and breaches a United Nations resolution if found to be true, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet.

Pompeo was responding to a Reuters report that Iran had given missiles to Shiite proxies in Iraq in the past few months. Iran was also said to be helping these groups develop the capacity to build missiles in Iraq to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and go against regional rivals, Reuters reported, citing unnamed Iranian, Iraqi and Western intelligence officials.

Secretary Pompeo


Deeply concerned about reports of transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231. Baghdad should determine what happens in Iraq, not Tehran.

The US has often accused Tehran of violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a nuclear deal in 2015 between Iran and world powers. The resolution calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles that can be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

From Bloomberg and Reuters

Iran: Defense ministry announces the plans to increase the power of its ballistic and cruise missiles

September 1, 2018
Advisor to DM Reveals Iran’s Plans to Enhance Ballistic, Cruise Missile Power
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TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior advisor to the Iranian defense ministry announced the country’s plans to increase the power of its ballistic and cruise missiles.

“The defense ministry’s new plans include enhancement of the power of different types of ballistic and cruise missiles, manufacturing a new generation of fighter jets and heavy and long-range surface and subsurface vessels with various weapons systems and capabilities,” Amir Mohammad Ahadi said, addressing the foreign military attaches in Tehran on Saturday.

He added that Iran enjoys the necessary infrastructures to further develop its defense industries.

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Last month, a new generation of home-made pin-pointing missiles, named ‘Fateh Mobin’ and equipped with an advanced and smart explorer, was unveiled in Iran.

The radar-evading, tactical and pin-pointing missile which was unveiled in a ceremony participated by Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami enjoys high agility and can operate against sea and land-based targets in all types of environment, even in electronic warfare conditions.

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Houthi Military Media Unit shows the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia March 25, 2018. Houthi Military Media Unit-Handout via Reuters

The missile is also capable of penetrating anti-missile defense shields.

Elsewhere, Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Force Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari also unveiled several achievements developed by the Army Ground Force, including a quadcopter with a range of 100km and flight durability of 4 hours which is capable of carrying a load.

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Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari

Also, a command-and-control system was unveiled by General Heidari which is capable of transmitting voice, image and data in encoded data.


UK minister visits Iran; Tehran wants Europe to act on nuclear deal

September 1, 2018

junior British minister held talks in Iran on Saturday, as Tehran said European states should take action if they wanted to save Iran’s nuclear deal after the U.S. withdrawal from it, Iranian state media reported.

“Among issues we have with Britain as a country … remaining in the agreement is access to banking resources and the sale of oil,” state news agency IRNA quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as telling reporters.

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“It is time for the Europeans to act in addition to voicing their political commitment. These measures may be costly, but if countries want to reap benefits and if they believe the nuclear accord is an international achievement, they should be ready to keep these achievements.”

Britain and other European signatories are trying to keep the nuclear deal alive, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.

UK’s Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt earlier met Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s state television reported

“The talks mainly covered economic cooperation and mechanisms of financial and monetary dealings between the two countries after the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord,” the television report said.

The two sides also discussed regional developments, it added.

In a statement before his visit, Burt said: “As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region.”

Burt was also expected to discuss the cases of dual nationals detained in Iran.

Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.

She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

Burt is due to meet non-governmental organizations during his two-day visit, in which he will also discuss Iran’s role in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Iran plans more spending on ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, submarines, fighter planes

September 1, 2018

Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity, as well as acquire a new generation fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defence Ministry official as saying on Saturday.

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Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister General Mohammad Ahadi, second from the right, at a meeting with the government of Turkey

“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of new generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defense minister for international affairs, IRNA said.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Toby Chopra


UK minister holds talks in Iran in first visit since U.S. quit nuclear deal — Centered on Reuters worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

September 1, 2018

UK Foreign Office minister also plans to challenge Iran on its ballistic missile programme

The imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is to be discussed as Middle East minister Alistair Burt holds talks in Iran on Saturday.

Burt intends to raise the high-profile case as he meets the Iranian deputy foreign affairs minister, Abbas Araghchi, in Tehran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for spying in 2016 but maintains her innocence, saying she was on holiday to introduce her daughter to her family in Iran.

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A photo of Richard Ratcliffe and his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has promised to heighten efforts aimed at securing the British-Iranian woman’s release after she passed out during a panic attack and had to be taken to a prison clinic earlier this week.

Burt is using his visit to discuss the cases of British dual-nationals detained in Iran as well as holding talks on the Iran nuclear deal and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Speaking before the visit, Burt said: “I will also use the opportunity of my visit to push for the resolution we all want to see in the cases of the British dual nationals detained in Iran.”

Burt is the first UK minister to visit the country since the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May, dismaying the UK and other European nations.

He arrives two days after Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to a prison hospitalafter a panic attack, following her return to jail from three days on temporary release with her daughter and other family members.

Earlier in the week Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who has spent two years seeking her release over claims of spying, praised Hunt for taking a closer interest in the matter than his predecessor, Boris Johnson.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Ratcliffe said he had “sensed a change in the way he has prioritised Nazanin’s case”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years in jail after she was accused of spying. She insists she was on holiday. Her four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, has been staying with family since she was arrested in April 2016.

In comments released before his arrival, Burt said it was “a crucial moment for Iran’s relationship with the UK, and the wider world”.

He said: “Since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, we – along with European and international partners – have reiterated our support for the deal and have underscored this support through mechanisms such as EU blocking legislation.

“As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region.”

At the same time, Burt said, he would be “strongly challenging” Iran on issues such as its ballistic missile programme and actions in other Middle East countries.

Donald Trump announced in May that the US was pulling out of the painstakingly negotiated deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in return for an end to Tehran’s military nuclear ambitions.

Earlier in August, Hunt joined his French and German counterparts to voice their “deep regret” at Washington’s withdrawal from the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), and vowed to protect European companies from US reprisals if they continue to trade with Iran.


Reuters reported:

She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

Burt is due to meet non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during his two-day visit when he will also discuss Iran’s role in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.